The playoffs began with a whimper, much like the regular season ended, for the Sultan of Sides. We had the winning team on two occasions, but both the Steelers and Seahawks failed to cover small spreads. For the weekend, my once proud, omnipresent, alternate personality went 0-4. The big goose egg. The suits in Las Vegas are hanging new chandeliers as we speak.
I’m not complaining though! The Seahawks gave me the scare and thrill of a football lifetime last Sunday. How did we win that game? Yes, I said we, I’m a card-carrying Seahawks fan since 1983. In place of a birthmark, I emerged from the womb with a Seahawks tattoo. I suffered through the latter-year, Dave Krieg-Rick Mirer era to emerge a better fan, if not emotionally scarred for life. I’m a huge supporter of Blair Walsh, and all his life accomplishments. What more proof do you need?
Don’t sleep on the Seahawks now. Almost all Super Bowl winners survive an improbable game in the postseason. That missed kick — if it was a putt, you would have told your golfing buddy to pick it up — might just be the pivotal moment we look back on when the Seahawks win their second Super Bowl in three years Feb. 7.
OK, that’s enough, I’ll spare you the Seahawks hysteria for a moment.
Kansas City Chiefs
@ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS -5
As much as I would love to see the Kansas City Chiefs travel up to Boston and knock off the Brady Bunch, I just don’t see it happening. Both Jeremy Maclin and Justin Houston have been held out of practice this week because of recent injuries. If the two Chiefs stars miss the game or are clearly limited it would be a huge blow to KC’s chances.
The Patriots have injury concerns of their own, but Darth Belichick has had an extra week to reorganize a game plan around replacement players.
Julian Edelman’s anticipated return from a broken foot should bolster New England’s vaunted quick passing attack. Edelman will need to play well with the effectiveness of the Patriots offensive line in question. The Brady Bunch has lost four of its last six since starting the year 10-0.
The Chiefs arrive with an 11-game winning streak of their own. These are two teams heading in opposite directions. Still, when you’re about to push your chips to the middle of the table who do you trust, Alex Smith or Tom Brady? Patriots win 23-17
GREEN BAY PACKERS
@ Arizona Cardinals -7
How many times have we seen a professional football team get crushed by an opponent only to give that same opponent all kinds of trouble a short time later? Look no further than the Seattle-Minnesota matchup a week ago. Seattle decimated the Vikings 38-7 in Minnesota Week 13. There was a Grand Canyon size gap between the two teams. A few weeks later Seattle needed a miraculous missed kick to defeat that same Vikings team.
In Week 16 the Green Bay Packers were in the desert facing the Arizona Cardinals. That Packers team lost 38-8. You can bet Green Bay will play much better in the rematch. These are all prideful football players. Teams take getting waxed personally. Green Bay will play its best ball on Saturday.
That still may not be enough to beat a very good Arizona team, but it’s going to be a competitive game. Did Arizona lose some of its mojo when Seattle beat them down 36-6 in their season finale? Don’t say Arizona had nothing to play for in Week 17. The Cardinals still had an opportunity to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC and played all their starters, including quarterback Carson Palmer, in the defeat. Cardinals win 28-24
@ Carolina Panthers -1
Don’t believe the 15-1 Carolina Panthers hype. The NFC South’s divisional matchups this year were the AFC South and NFC East. Two of the worst divisions in NFL history. Both divisions were won by 9-7 teams that were outscored in the wild-card round 65-18 combined.
That means, if you include home-and-away matchups with the Saints, Falcons and Bucs, 14 of Carolina’s 16 games were played against teams with a combined record of 72-104. The Panthers would have faced a stiffer challenge playing Duke and Georgia Tech in the ACC.
Super Bowl hangover version Seahawks carried a 23-14 lead deep into the fourth quarter against the Panthers earlier this year before Cam Newton led a miraculous come-from-behind 27-23 victory. That’s all fine and dandy Panthers fan, but let’s not overlook Newton’s career 69.0 passer rating in four regular season games against the Seahawks. In those games Newton tossed more interceptions than touchdowns.
Russell Wilson meanwhile posts a tasty 93.8 rating in those same four contests. In their only postseason matchup Wilson badly outplayed Newton passing for 268 yards, three touchdowns and no picks in an easy Seahawks victory. Seahawks win 30-21
@ DENVER BRONCOS -7
The final game of the weekend is the most mysterious. Will quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning survive 60 minutes of tackle football? Rumors persist that Big Ben can’t throw the ball over 20 yards with his injured shoulder. That’s not good against a very good Denver defense. Not to mention the Steelers may be without all-universe receiver Antonio Brown who is mired in the NFL’s concussion protocol. The game-time temperature could be near freezing, that’s not Seahawks-Vikings weather, but it could be tough on Manning’s bionic neck. Is WD-40 considered a performance enhance drug? Broncos win 28-13